Virtue Ethics: Alisdair MacIntyre (Part 2)

In my last post, I mentioned that the philosophy of virtue ethics, as suggested by Alisdair MacIntyre sounds very reasonable, but it has drawn four main criticisms.  The four are: 1) it is a way of life that is self-centered, 2) it is a way of life lacking any guidance as to appropriate actions to reach happiness, 3) it is a way of life based on luck of one’s circumstances in life, and 4) it is unreasonable to suggest that in today’s world people should live in small communities as the means of achieving happiness.

Let me address each of these criticisms.  1) It may appear to be a self-centered way of life but, as discussed in my book, Campbell teaches that a call to adventure to secure a boon for the benefit of society is needed to reach happiness.  In addition, the virtues are needed to recognize the call, act on it, and be successful in the quest.  The virtues are needed to secure the boon and deliver it to society, which, is also needed for the individual to reach happiness.  This action is anything but self-centered and contributed to the flourishing of society.

2) there is no lacking of guidance.  Campbell is very clear as to the steps needed to accept the call, win the battles, and return with the boon intact.  The virtues are needed to take the steps needed to reach happiness and the flourishing of society.

3) Indeed, luck does play a part in life and for everyone, especially regarding one’s family and society.  A dysfunctional family and/or society will make it very hard for anyone to achieve happiness.  However, luck is not the only variable, one must also be willing to be involved with others, take risks, and develop the virtues so that when the call is sent, the adventure can be accepted.

4) I think that the best vehicle for a virtuous life is to harness the gift of the entrepreneur within each of us.  I agree that in today’s world it would be very difficult to lead a life as a member of a small Medieval group.  It is very appropriate to learn how to take risks, recognize opportunities, and take action to capitalize on those opportunities so that one’s future is live above today’s expectations.

This entrepreneurial approach prepares each of us through education, social interactions, and risk-taking, to apply our virtues in ways that enhance our happiness while helping society to flourish.

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